21 July 2006

Hobsblog Anniversary - A Review

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my entry into blogging, and I thought it worth stepping back a bit and reviewing what, if anything, has been achieved. In the next post, I will take a look forward.

My original idea was to see what blogging was all about. I was starting to see how it could be used as a tool for companies to reach out to their clients, partners, employees etc. in a much more interactive way than a corporate website ever could. I wanted to see how much was involved, what level of commitment is required, how hard it would be to continue to write material, and whether any interactions can be encouraged to create greater value to myself and/or to my readers. Let's come back to these points later.

I've gone back and done a little analysis (back of an envelope) to see how much I've posted and on what topics. Here are some results which may or may not surprise you:

Total number of posts: 227 - averaging around 4-5 entries per week.
The maximum posts in a month was 44 in January 2006, and the minimum was December 2005, with just 8. I think I'm managing to maintain a reasonable output - around 65 posts were made in Q2.

I haven't done any in-depth looking at the number of words, but I long-ago abandoned any pretence at keeping articles compact. I would suspect that if anything, the articles have on average increased in size over the year. I know many of the articles are long - and indeed overly so. Such articles often get several iterations of editing, and they ALWAYS grow in size as I write it - providing more links and bringing in more background, points etc. This is just my style and I don't seem to be able to change this!

What I did want to take a look at was the topics that I have covered.

I came up with a list of subject areas that I have written about. These subject areas are not particularly well-defined, but I think would equate well to keywords or tags for the articles. I quickly and unscientifically went back through the postings to see what "tags" I would put on the articles. Most articles would have just one tag, but a few might have more than one (the odd article escaped this treatment altogether). I would only apply a tag if the article was PRIMARILY about that subject. An article on Apple's iPod and DRM for instance might have both Apple and DRM/Media as tags. Here are the results:
apple..........64 (28%)
apple related*...20 (9%)
cycling.........8 (3.5%)
journalism.....8 (3.5%)
other IT.......26 (12%)
gadgets/software....15 (6.5%)
humour...........11 (5%)
people I know.....9 (4%)
travelling......8 (3.5%)
microsoft......23 (10%)
sony............13 (5.5%)
politics/issues....14 (6%)
sports.........5 (2%)
science/nature....10 (4.5%)
drm/music/media....19 (8.5%)

* related to Apple (eg Mac software but not primarily about Apple)

So, it isn't ALL Apple here you know! There was a particular surge in January with a number of articles around MacWorld 2006 considering how the Intel transition might pan out. But a big question for all of you is whether you'd like to see more or less of this topic? Having worked with Macs since 1984, bought probably in excess of 500 machines in my career, and having met Steve Jobs personally on a couple of occasions (including being interviewed personally by him), I do feel it's a subject I know well and can provide a reasoned commentary on things, even if from the enthusiast/supporter point of view. But of course, there are better commentators (and writers) out there doing similar things (Jon Gruber's Daring Fireball springs to mind). I would like to think some of the postings have been reasonable and insightful. The post "7 reasons Apple went with Intel not AMD" back in September has proven pretty reasonable for instance way before most people knew what a Core Duo chip was. I also think I provided a reasonable commentary on the introduction of the iPod video - predicting it as a music player that COULD do video, and also correctly forecasting that iPod nano sales had surpassed a million within the first month.

On other subjects, I have nothing but my career and personal experience, passion and/or a modicum of common sense (!) to add. I have tried to bring attention - but in a reasoned way - to issues I feel passionate about - DRM and the music/media business; journalism; political issues such as personal privacy. I've also tried to inject a bit of humour or link to others far more humorous than myself. But writing is not an easy medium for this. People who know me may detect the tongue in cheek more easily than others who don't. The article I wrote on "Nazis and the iPod" which was really about my disdain for the Daily Hate (sorry, Mail) did not really hit the button. And, I think in honesty the weakness of my writing style is that I try to take aim at too many things in one article instead of focusing down on a point and making it more incontrovertibly! But I have a disdain for over-simplifying a complex world. I believe that each subject needs a holistic treatment. That's why I had 7 reasons Apple went Intel - all valid in my view and influencing to the decision to some degree. Others would have said simply Apple went Intel for X reason.

I am personally pleased with some of the other posts I have made - some of which have a more lasting element - such as the Hoar Frost photos, whale watching, travelling, travelling, more travelling and my folding bike and bike riding experiences. And, strangely it is some of these that get commented on the most - sometimes from people I know but more often not. It is this that makes blogging fun, interesting and valuable. I pass on a bit of knowledge/observation/photo, but I get so much back from it.

So what has not worked so well? I think the low number of comments has been a disappointment. I tried to make comments easier to make - comments can be made anonymously, and I don't think I've ever rejected a comment. But, they do require some effort (but conversely, I've never had comment spam!). I think there are a lot of subjects here that I'd like some more debate on, and that debate is not being had here! I think the bigger problem of course, is that the blog is not widely read. It has been picked up sometimes without any effort, but very rarely. There are no usage statistics on places like Technorati for it, (yet I know it is read by a few people!) I've recently been adding tags and experimenting with other things (eg Feedburner RSS). It is now easier to find posts (eg via a Technorati search), but the wider web does not pick up on this blog very often. Of course, I didn't set out to get a wider interest. But I have to say that to continue the investment in some topics is crazy without a wider audience and the debate that comes from that.

A word on the hosting is in order too. I've found Blogger.com to be pretty reasonable as a place to host the site. It's had some major technical problems at times, and it's own search does not appear to work most of the time (but not all!). It lacks categorisation (at least as far as I can tell), and it lacks a separate comments feed which would be nice. Posting is easy usually via browser (though Safari is more limited than Firefox), but I can also (and have) use e-mail, a dashboard widget, and send a post from my phone. Including photos is also easy - including again from my phone directly, though resolution is an issue. I'd like to find a tool which allows me to do a bit more - tie into my website for instance, and I'd like that to be on the Mac. However, iWeb is not that tool (at least in version 1.1). Rapidweaver - an application I covered here a few months ago, may be a suitable next step (especially with some new themes released for blogging), but I am wary of the effort it will take to switch (and it still lacks mobile blogging features). Moving the blog is not exactly likely to increase readership - quite the contrary. So, if I move it, it has to be as part of a greater plan. More on that in the next post.

What have I learned?

I've learned quite a lot - primarily about the effort to produce content. I've learned some of the basic technical aspects, but there is more here I could know with better use of features like trackback. But, content is King! It takes a lot of work to get a better quality article, and it's all too easy to put out garbage. For the organisations and people I work with, a business blog would be advisable in only a couple of cases. And, even then, it would take a commitment to generate content, and also some work to get the blog noticed. While I have got a couple of these people interested and STARTING to look at things like RSS, most of the potential readers of their blogs are still a long way from that.

In fact, I still find myself preaching even just basic RSS use to many people even though I know it would change their internet use more than any other single thing they've done since getting broadband (only my beloved other half has jumped into it, and she does use it consistently for tracking general news and science stories). So, while these potential-bloggers could be early movers in their field, it's a chicken and egg approach that means effort is spent cajoling potential readers to sign up in any way - email subscription, web page visit, etc. You can't just blog and people will come, especially in a field outside where the geeks congregate. It IS changing, but slower than it should.

Having said that, for the people I've identified, I am absolutely convinced they could improve their business by blogging and working on creating a community of interested people with their blog at the centre of that. I will continue to encourage them to venture out into the world of blogging.

So, that's the review of the last year. Feedback on what's been here would be very useful to me. But, I'd most like you to head over to the next section which looks forward. It's been fun, interesting and instructive. But it also needs to evolve. Pop to the next post, have a quick read, and then leave me a comment and help make Hobsblog better (or put it out of its misery)!


Anonymous said...

not sure if you will get this, as I have attempted to post comments several times & yet they dont seem to get through.

Ian Hobson said...

Thanks for stopping by. I certainly got this comment, and I'm not sure why I haven't received your other comments - I have never rejected any as I said (perhaps a blogger.com problem I wasn't aware of?).
I've checked back through my notifications and I have a couple of Gary T comments (which I authorised of course). I was only about 3 months late with the Rapidweaver recommendation!

You can probably find links on my home pages to contact me directly, but feel free to email me at ian dot hobson at mac dot com if you know what I mean!

Maybe one feature I should add is to be able to email me directly? Sometimes, comments are not the right place for a debate or just to send info?